- Sat, 2003-07-05 14:33
As Mark Owen embarks on the next phase of his recording career, it's becoming clear that perhaps for the first time, everything that's passed before his eyes can now be included in his life as a pop singer. The terraced streets of Oldham where he grew up in a small council house can be in there. The euphoria and the unreality of his days in the original, best, and most loved British boy band, Take That, can be drawn on. He can use those years up at his Lake District home, spent talking to the wildlife and wrestling with songs. The insides, upsides and downsides can all go in there, and even the surreal madness of celebrity reality TV can be embraced and adapted.
It would be wrong to say that Mark Owen has grown up. He's far too idealistic and in love with the possibilities of song, and still way too cute for that. What has happened though, is finally, after the seismic lifequake that occurred in his early twenties, his past and his future have met in the middle to produce a brilliant new energy. In 2003 fate and Mark's own good karma have conspired to return him to the centre of pop with a set of songs and a positive outlook that can turn on the lights anywhere there's a jukebox, radio, sleazy venue or roaring stadium. It definitely feels like a new start, says Mark. I know I was in Take That before and I did a solo album, but I think the gap in between has been a good thing for me, because I'm hungry and I'm excited.
I Like Music caught up with Mark as he releases his new single, Four Minute Warning...
''I like music because...it tells the story of my life.'' Mark Owen
ILM: So how has 2003 been for you so far?
Mark: 2003 has been busy, but very exciting too. It started off with me having just signed a new deal, so a lot of time in the studio really, and doing bits of writing and stuff and that took me through to May. And since then it's been getting the album finished off, and promotion. But it's gone really quick.
ILM: Your single 4 Minute Warning is out in August - can you give us your own personal description of it and the track's whole vibe?
Mark: The song itself is quite an upbeat sound and has a driving harmonica through it, and the idea behind the song is that it just counts down four minutes of time, in real time, when it's about the thought of only having so long to live and the world's going to end.
ILM: And tell me what you'd do if you heard the 4 minute warning?
Mark: In truth if there really was a Four Minute Warning I doubt we'd even know about it, but if there was I'd do something that I wouldn't normally do. I've had dreams where I've been naked in the street and felt really uncomfortable, so I'd probably just get naked or something, or maybe I'd rob a bank and I'd say 'gimme your money' and they'd say 'no' and I'd go 'okay'. So I'd try to fit as much in as possible. Click here to watch the video
ILM: You've worked with Arthur Baker on your previous album, how did that come about?
Mark: He's so cool and he looks like a lion. The tracks I did with him were on the album I did a few years ago now, but I still bump into him now and again. Sometimes he does Djing in town. Arthur came about when I was still with RCA and I was looking for various producers to record some music I'd been writing, so I met four or five producers and Arthur just seemed to get the vibe that I wanted at the time. Since then my vibe's changed a little bit. But I'd love Arthur to do a remix or something, I'd like him to be involved because he taught me a lot and is a bit of an inspiration.
ILM: Do you feel much more in control of your music and your destiny in general these days?
Mark: I suppose I am, I do have that kind of feeling, but also the feeling of walking into the unknown, which is kind of exciting and just seeing what happens, instead of trying to plan everything and think too far in to the future. I'm taking each day for what it is and trying to get the most out of each day, but sometimes you end up getting too much out of one day and being knackered the next day. Just going with the flow and making the most of it is what I'm doing at the moment.
ILM: And can you tell me a bit about your debut album? Which track did you have the most fun making?
Mark: In some ways going up and working with Gary (Barlow) was really good fun, and I did a track as well with Ian McCulloch from Echo and The Bunnymen, and that was a lot of fun, as you can imagine. But the track that immediately got me excited from writing from scratch to right through the recording process, is a song called Kill Your Smile, and I like the feel of that song. But they've all been different experiences. This time round I haven't just done it with one producer, but with various people, and everyone brings something different and you learn different things from different people. So they've all brought moments of magic in some ways, and I'll remember each one for different reasons.
ILM: Is it a relief not to have girls camping outside your house these days?
Mark: Oh yeah. It just makes it a bit easier because you don't have neighbours wanting to kill ya.
ILM: Take That were record breakers, the first band since the Beatles to have four consecutive number one singles, and the first group to have eight releases enter the charts at number one. How did you cope with success now you can look back and reflect?
Mark: I think I coped alright, not incredibly, but alright. I still look back on those times and try to work out what happened in some ways, because it almost becomes like one big day, but I learnt a lot during those years and experienced so much, and had so many great times and travelled around the world. I look back now very fondly on those years. I just wish in some ways that I'd kept a diary or something, so I can look back and piece it together. You get little flashbacks from time to time.
ILM: And how has it been seeing your good pal The Robmeister, becoming a superstar?
Mark: I know it's amazing isn't it. I see him on the telly and I almost forget that he was in our band, he's like a different persona, and on a total different level. But I saw Rob not too long ago and it was really nice to hook up with him, and he was still Rob who I've always known and seemed like the same person to me, which was great.
I think I became a bit of a fan in some ways. I didn't stalk him or 'ought but I went to see him on all of his tours and it's been amazing seeing him starting off in little places in London initially and then the last place I saw him was at The Millennium Dome in Cardiff.
But I think he's worked really really hard, and he deserves it all on the amount of effort he's put in.
ILM: You've experienced the highs and lows of fame I guess, what advice do you have for young singers starting out on the road to fame?
Mark: Write a diary! I think just try and enjoy it, because everyone feels and goes through different things, so I wouldn't give anyone any advice in that way, so just to enjoy it and do the best you can, but don't lie back and think you've made it.
ILM: Do you still keep in touch with Sue from Celebrity Big Brother?
Mark: When I first came out I saw her a few times within a month, but I haven't seen her for a while because I live up North and she lives down here, and since I've been down here it's been pretty much full on work really, so I haven't had time.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Mark: The new Radiohead album, Hail To A Thief, a track that I got back yesterday, one of mine called Head In the Clouds and The Smiths.
ILM: Describe your favourite place on earth?
ILM: Can you describe the highlight of your life so far and highlight of your musical life?
Mark: Highlight of my musical life: getting into music in the first place, but I suppose the first number one, but it was more just having a hit, one of the most exciting times back in 1993.
The highlight of my life personally I think is hopefully still to come...